My favorite TV show is What Not to Wear on TLC. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a reality show where two fashion consultants take someone who dresses shabbily and completely make him or her over. There are, of course, all kinds of other “reality-show” aspects to the show (the element of surprise, the unceremonious dumping of the old wardrobe, etc.) but at its heart it’s a make-over show.
I like it for a lot of reasons. Mostly, it teaches me how to coordinate a wardrobe, which is lesson a girl can miss growing up in Colorado. (Colorado casual = jeans and a t-shirt. Colorado dressy = jeans and a nice shirt. Colorado super-dressy = see Colorado dressy above, or maybe a dress, but only if you’re female.)
I also like it because it teaches people about first impressions. So many makeover “subjects” start out by saying “it’s what’s on the inside that counts,” or “if people don’t like me because of the way I dress, that’s their problem.” They aren’t saying that by the end.
When people meet you, the first thing they see is your outward appearance. At that point, it’s 100% of what they know about you. And it says a lot about you. Of course, you don’t have much control over your actual physical features (unless you’ve been selected for a different, more “extreme” personal appearance reality show.) But the choices you make – in grooming, in wardrobe, etc. – say a lot about you.
When people “meet” you without seeing you face to face – say, via an internet “match” site, they don’t see your wardrobe. They see your profile. We talked last month about the importance of putting your “best foot forward” in your profile. I wrote about the mistake so many people make in leading with their flaws, or disclosing personal information too soon.
Of course, ever since I wrote that article, my “antennae” has been up, and I’ve been noticing other statements people make in their profiles that can tend to turn off potential matches. So I thought I’d take some time this month to go into more detail about specifics.
Disclaimer: any resemblance between the examples given here and actual Catholic Match member profiles is purely coincidental. I want to say right up front that the examples I’m using are NOT profiles from Catholic Match members. I don’t have a profile on Catholic Match, and I haven’t even seen a CM profile in a very long time. I don’t want anybody saying “Hey, she’s talking about me!” It may apply to you, but I’m not quoting your profile.
Okay, so here’s Mary Beth’s version of “What Not to Say.”
1) “I’m very attractive.” Variations could be “My friend say I’m very attractive,” “I’ve been blessed with good looks,” “If you’re looking for someone attractive . . ” etc.
Okay, first of all, that’s what the picture is for. You’re supposed to let them decide. If you tell them that you’re attractive, and they look at your picture and think “Not so much,” it doesn’t reflect particularly well on you.
Second, you’re not technically supposed to have an opinion of your own attractiveness. I know, most people do. And it’s frequently not accurate. So you’re not supposed to admit it.
Third, real physical attractiveness is informed by personality. Someone can be stunningly beautiful in a photo, but after five minutes in a room with that person any trace of beauty has vanished. Likewise, someone of average physical appearance can become very beautiful when their inner light shines through.
And finally, when it comes to appearance, what do most people want in a partner? Someone who is actually more attractive than they realize they are. Of course, no one wants a beautiful person who constantly laments about his or her ugliness. But someone who is keenly aware of and obsessed with his or her own beauty is someone we call “vain.” And if you mention your own physical beauty before someone gets a chance to notice it, they’re going to suspect that you are just that.
2)Any sentence containing the phrases “my ex,” “my ex-wife,” “my ex-husband” or anything else containing the word “ex.” Most of us have been on a date or two where we felt like there was an invisible third party at the table. And none of us liked it. Especially when we’re first getting to know someone, we want to feel like their attention is focused forward, on us and on the future – not backward on the relationship or marriage that ended. Early and/or frequent talk about an ex is not a good sign. It’s a pretty quick turn-off.
3)Name dropping. I saw a profile recently where all of the pictures featured the subject with various powerful, highly-recognizable political figures. Maybe he was just trying to signal his political leanings, which I happened to agree with. More likely he was name-dropping – trying to impress potential matches by showing how powerful and connected he is. To me, it was an enormous turn-off. Name-droppers always strike me as people who are insecure, and need to borrow someone else’s credibility to boost their own. First of all, managing to appear in a picture with someone famous doesn’t really mean much. They pose for pictures with relative strangers all the time. Second, being close to a famous person doesn’t say anything one way or another about one’s own value as a human being. Famous people are almost always surrounded and hounded by people who annoy them. Third, if someone really does have a relationship with someone in the public eye, it would be a sign of respect for that friendship to not exploit it or use it as a means to pick up dates.
4)Anything about sex. I can’t begin to tell you how creepy it was for me to see in a recent profile the phrase “touch and be touched, pleasure and be pleasured.” I suppose he was signaling that he wanted a certain kind of relationship, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he found it. But if you’re looking for “happily ever after,” don’t lead with anything remotely suggestive or sexual. Aside from the obvious moral problems, you’re presenting yourself in a very bad light. I know women in particular are probably tempted to want to come off as sexy or tantalizing because they think that’s attractive to a man. And yeah, sexy is generally attractive to men. But “overtly sexy” and “want to bring her home to meet Mom” don’t usually coincide in the same woman. If you want to be respected, you want to maintain a little mystery – and perhaps a little dignity as well.
Some of you may be resisting some of this – saying “But I really feel compelled to talk about my ex” or “But I AM attractive and sexy.” Look, if you still want to mention all of these things in your profile, by all means do. The profile is supposed to be a snapshot of who you really are, and if the aforementioned topics loom large in your perception of yourself, then I have no problem with you disclosing them right up front. Potential dates need to know if you’re still hung up on your ex, or if you think the neatest thing about yourself is that you rub elbows with the rich and famous.
Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.